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What I Would've Told Myself the Day I Was Diagnosed With Depression

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Poor girl. You are 14 and don’t even know what living is.

But you will know. The hard way. In time.

You will get depressed sometimes. At 20, you’ll come home from college and swallow pills and sleep but only after knocking out your front teeth and disappointing your parents. However, you will have a root canal, and your suicide attempt will convince your psychiatrist to give you electroconvulsive therapy. ECT. Shock therapy.

But do not be afraid.

You are already beginning to see that life is not how it is portrayed in movies. Neither is ECT.

Yes, electrical current will pass through your brain and make your big toe bobble, but you will sleep.

This will happen at least 90 times from the time you are 20 until you are 28, twice as old as you are now.

You will eventually heed your English teacher’s warning and cut down on reading Plath.

You will be a published writer.

You will bring light to others who are suffering.

And after years of dismissal, you will accept who you are. You will also accept your diagnoses: bipolar II disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Don’t worry—you will not become like your mother with constant calculations or an alcoholic like your grandfather. You will take your medicine. Sometimes it will help. Sometimes it won’t, but you will learn to be an expert at asking for help.

When the memories lost from ECT come flooding back and you remember you were abused as a child by your grandfather, you will write through them. You will briefly falter and succumb to suicidal ideations, but you will plug “Tampa General Hospital” into your smartphone for directions and drive there before trying anything.

You will be hospitalized several times and realize you are stronger than you thought you were.

You will try more medications than you can name.

You will have a remarkable sense of humor about all this.

You will amaze others, but more importantly, amaze yourself with your resilience.

You will graduate high school. You will graduate college. You will enter an MFA in creative writing program in Oregon of all places, make friends with kindred spirits and write a book, just like you always wanted to do.

You will dye your hair all kinds of colors, including black.

You will learn to express yourself in non-self-destructive, self-flourishing ways. Writing, music, crocheting, making films in your head of what could be, what you want, what life is really like.

You will find a man to love, and he will love you back in spite of all this, or maybe because of all this.

Your parents and your brother will never stop loving and supporting you.

You will speak to nursing students about how to better treat those with mental illness, how to understand them as people.

Most importantly, even as you bridge the cusp of 30, the age Plath died by suicide, you know you are thriving and feel the bees in your bones, the buzz of success in your head.

You will live through this, and you will change the world. Your writing is a powerful, positive weapon. Never stop letting the words flow through you.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally published: February 16, 2016
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